Category Archives: Flowers

HEARTLESS HELEN by PENHALIGONS (2019)

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I had promised myself I wouldn’t write anything today as I am feeling mind-wiped, but seeing this just-out-in-Nippon release in Takashimaya ( a take no prisoners, self confidently fresh and sharp mandarin tuberose neroli that she would never wear in a million years though I might ),  I am simply putting this up to pique the amusement of my best friend Helen – who is anything but heartless

 

 

 

 

 

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– though she can be severe and cut to the core and tell it like it is because she seems to understand me better than possibly anybody else: a soul twin, telepathic understanding that, though we speak far too little ( as we are both lazy and crap ) we know, as long as we remain intact, we will always have.

 

 

 

 

 

 

( the picture above is H giving me a pep talk before my Perfume Lovers London talk of 2014 ….. god how time so quickly flies……)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helen has talked me through many a difficult situation: like my mother (in the earthquake, my operation, both were amazing ) they tell me just the right combination of reality and boost. A hotwire to my sensibility;  fraternal umbilical straight to my fevered, potholed  brain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We are also both hypochondriacs. So god knows how she would feel being here where I am today, in Yokohama,; the biggest China Town in all of Asia, where a cruise ship is quarantined off shore walking distance from where I have lessons with passengers coming down like flies with the coronavirus, and where, as you can see, masks are selling out and there is a very uneasy feel in the air – as there is globally – as people are wondering what to believe, and whether they are over or underreacting; where being on packed trains feels unpleasant and dangerous, and where tempers get frayed —

 

 

 

 

– —- my ragged own, especially ( I had an argument with my closest Japanese male friend on the bus earlier this afternoon. about a common colleague who was espousing theories the other day about only the ‘weak’ being in danger of contracting the virus and being very arrogantly ‘unconcerned’ about the illness –  —- so would that include me, then?  having had very serious pneumonia in my left lung twice before ; I didn’t like the almost Nietzschean Ubermensch implications of what he was saying (and what of the immune stressed sleep deprived students, just before the most important exams of their lives ?); my friend said it was a linguistic misunderstanding: I responded with something below the belt about the man’s appearance…., oh when I get on the defensive I can be very venomous ; bile slips from my tongue with slippered ease.,..  …. never mind Heartless Helen; it is more like Noxious Neil (so should I wear the partner in the set, then  : the devilish and dastardly woody tobacco scent, Terrible Ted? )

 

 

 

 

 

No : I think Helen would suit me much better : we need proud nosegays in these pestilential times; bright flowers (Penhaligons calls this a ‘fearless conquistador’), and everybody knows that I love oranges.  don’t think about it, H would say, rationalize, hone in to the very best perspective; reverse or brake my hysteria  —-   ———- or at the very least, just try and  steer me towards a more pacified lucidity

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE ASTRONOMICAL PRICE OF FRUIT IN JAPAN

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Spotted yesterday. Delectably sweet, fragrant strawberries wrapped in plastic, contained in a plastic, pre-giftable box, at ¥500 yen a pop ( for ONE : approximately five dollars ). A small punnet was ¥2700; a papaya for the day,  ¥1500.

I have written about exorbitant fruit prices before in my Neela Vermeire Bombay Bling review ( behold, the ¥5000 mangoes !): a Yubari melon can reach up to a million.

 

Meticulouslly cultivated; blemish-free, the fruit fetishized equivalent of Kobe Beef.

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THANK F*** I HAVE TWO DAYS OFF

 

 

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February 1, 2020 · 6:38 pm

NIGHTCLUBBING: : GIVENCHY III (1970) + DIORESSENCE by CHRISTIAN DIOR (1979) + J’AI OSE by GUY LAROCHE (1978)

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It is fascinating to consider the survivors of the 1970’s. Some perfumes just had too much of a hook, formed too much of an emotional link in fragrance-wearing minds to be let go, even in reformulated, attenuated – ruined –  form.

 

 

 

Thus, YSL Opium – the grande dame of Studio 54 Disco Perfumes – remains still popular; its ( reducted ) heart still beating; as do the demurer Anais Anais: Chanel No 19; Rive Gauche…..the interlinking ingredients recognisable themes in the mind and on skin, more tenable, memorable…………..classic.

 

 

 

Other more subtle perfumes from the 70’s that I love, Balenciaga Michelle, Balmain Ivoire, Rochas Mystere (so strange, divine in my opinion : I save my extraits for special occasions) are gone. Remain shuttered away in closets. Sold online at vintage auction.

 

 

 

 

Some live in a netherworld in between.

 

 

 

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Still available in some form or other – resurrected as newly priced ‘heritage’ scents by their parent companies in limited edition collections, or else as Drug Store bargains ( in the case of Guy Laroche ), Givenchy III, Dioressence, and J’ai Osé, are like spiced, fluttering, final nails in the coffin of a decadent decade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The much lauded Givenchy III is a dry and bitter aldehydic chypre that I have smelled in various incarnations, including a lot of vintage parfum, and always intensely disliked. Similar in some ways to Bandit – another perfume whose charms I have never fallen for (is it that phenolic, leathered unsugaredness that doesn’t work for me? Something too frowning, too serious; too manly? ) I feel that I need to be educated by you on this one as I really just don’t get it.
Forever closed to me.

 

 

 

 

 

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Though I can imagine III having smelled quite spectacular on a cream satin blouse under fur coat in New York in clouds of cigarette smoke (because all of these perfumes are made for such occasions…dragging themselves through the pall and the strobes for a dahhling moment perched on the side of a sofa as the thick perfume tenders out from the drenched fibres into the next person’s conscious); the androgyny, angularity,  meannessss…., whenever I smell this perfume it just smells to me like yesterday’s ashes.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dioressence has similarly never floated my boat. The thing with Opium was that it was so immediate: capturing a quintessence of what it was trying to do; loading the spice, the citrus, the flowers, the balsams, the resins, the animalics, the patchouli, into the perfectly aestheticized package. A cultural phenomenon.

Most of its apologists were simply just less interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(they couldn’t even use a real leopard – a case of the latest raging coronavirus tearing through the nightclub? )

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patently a flatterer of Opium, like Cinnabar by Lauder, and KL by Lagerfeld, Dioressence is a scent that I have always found rather dowdy somehow :: Cruella De Vil down with the influenza,  nursing a hot herb tea with honey in fraying slippers.

 

 

 

 

 

Again – perhaps you just had to be there. It is an elegant perfume, to be sure (as is Givenchy III – this cannot be denied), a removed competitor, older, more considered, with a softer internality, but for me there is just not that originality (and yes I am writing about the vintage parfum): that remarkable refrain that stays in the mind like the more committed, and characterful classics.

I need more fire.

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J’ai Osé (I tried, I dared, I did my best) is yet another Opium; nice actually; soft, sensual and rounded, spicy, with a certain flair …..but again, very, very much of that time. That ilk. And though I know I would enjoy this in certain contexts, on a person with the fashion wherewithal to carry it off knowingly (or else completely obliviously….just finding it at a garage sale and wearing it what the heck), generally I do think there is a reason that these perfumes have fallen by the wayside, unlike other perfumes that have transcended the times because of their ‘timeless appeal’, or more imaginative tenacity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

They’re like dancing with ghosts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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IN SOLITARY ::: POEME PARFUM by LANCOME (1995)

 

 

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Lancome is like Estée Lauder in creating carefully tailored blockbusters to fit the palette of the times. Tresor, La Vie Est Belle are enduring megaliths; bestsellers; sugared concentrations so smoothly rendered; infallibly consumer tested that the masses, passing through airline terminals, cannot ever resist. Poeme – a dry, multifaceted, innovative and complexly rendered spiced floral of gloom – a perfume to me that contains an inherent morose negativity – curiously malign, an oddball- a fragrance that gets on the nerves –  did not fit into this pattern of full bodied inculpability. Though cultish, and cherished  (Poeme most definitely has its fans : there is nothing else quite like it, with its low registered woodish vanilla tones shot through with glumful flora – Himalayan poppy, mimosa; freesia……….though to me it smells more like embittered chrysanthemums; dead, resentful carnations); a close bodied resonance that is understated; reserved, in its boldness and its strength………………I nevertheless always interpret it personally as a grating, passive aggression.

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t help but always associate this creation by Jacques Cavallier with my first very isolated months in Japan ( the perfume had been released just a year before, and remarkably, did have some takers ). One student of mine in particular, a woman in her late thirties of a dour and scratchy disposition who was trying to seduce me ( how is it possible that I actually stayed at her apartment? Overnight ? What oblivious gullibility was this …...What was I thinking ? ) would douse herself liberally in its negativizing eroticism. …………I cannot deny that this scent has a pull; it has depth; it has a magnetism  (like being dragged down into hell): and though I did always find the smell somewhat nauseating in some way I couldn’t  quite put my finger on, I can’t deny also that it was depressingly hypnotic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cycling along in the rain today,  with the vintage parfum extrait on the back of my hand (almost beautiful actually; so orchestral; glinting; gradated), I  pondered that strange time in my life when I had deliberated isolated myself for the peculiar reason THAT I HAD TOO MANY FRIENDS. I had flown to Japan to be alone.  My London social life had overwhelmed me ; I no longer wanted to be contactable for the latest film, theatre piece, art exhibition or dinner party on any given day of the working week – especially with such a poor paying teaching job; my roster of people – much as I loved each one of them individually – was doing my head in. I had had to pull away; start afresh, no matter the cost. And so I just left my partner, my family and friends and flew to Japan – an alien nation on the other side of the world – and put myself willingly in social solitary confinement thinking it was what I needed, to think and to be ‘zen’  only to find myself so lonely at times it bordered on desperation, surrounded by unsuitable people I had nothing in common with but who were marginally better than nothing; and avoiding the nocturnal unwanted seductions of J-temptresses wearing Poeme.

 

 

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GUERLAIN MAHORA PARFUM EXTRAIT (2000)

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I have had an extraordinary weekend which involved making an online commercial film  in my capacity as a writer who finds inspiration in travel and other cultures; driving around Tokyo with an Italian- Japanese co-production of twelve people scouting for filming locations, and then a day yesterday spent filming me at home among my perfume bottles and an interview done in my bedroom.

 

People going in and out of the house all day rearranging things, it was strange having your nest opened up like that but curiously expanding to the mind as well : I felt fully alive and in the moment scrambling up the closed off forest – because the typhoon damage has still not been cleared away  – as a last minute idea to get me staring out across the valley to the sea like a nineteenth century romantic  taking notes as the cameraman followed me with zigzagging movements through the foliage and we reached the peak over Kenchoji.

 

 

i hadn’t prepared for the interview because I wanted it to be spontaneous. Just answer as things came naturally to mind, but it was a novel experience having me in a closed off set, our room sealed off- crew milling on the street outside, causing a commotion as my neighbours wondered what on earth was happening.

 

 

i can’t remember what I was saying or how it came out ( so hard not to feel self conscious in such a situation ). There was a lot about travelling and Japan, and of course about perfume and its powerful link to emotion and temporality; for some reason I took the original Nina by Nina Ricci (1987) from the table as it was precisely one happy summer’s afternoon on the day of a piano competition I had nervously been entered for at the age of sixteen and done ok, and this was all the family sprawled on the bed, me lackadaisically taking my mum’s white flower embossed flacon and spraying it cavalierly : for me now, this is thus one of the most precious bottles in my collection capturing a carefree moment in time.

 

 

 

I realized with perfume though that it need not be only core experiences in your life – romantic love and loss, family – but that it can also be a memory-sealing document of friends who come in to your life for a while and then move away; you lose or lessen contact maybe but try to keep in touch, and this was the case of Denise, who I wrote about in my book under Tresor (because she wears it so very gorgeously). We spent a lot of time together around 1999/ 2000, when she left here to go back to Scotland and then Australia; and for a significant birthday we presented her with champagne and nice chocolates and some Guerlain Mahora.

 

 

 

Mahora was a strange release for Guerlain, out of step with the times in many ways; a dense, sweet, overloaded tropical floriental of frangipani, tuberose, jasmine, almond blossom – and probably coconut -over tightly intense woods a la Samsara extrait and vanilla ( in fact the second I smelled it I remember thinking that this perfume was essentially Samsara takes a holiday on a tropical getaway): an almost vulgar palimpsest of Jean Paul Guerlain’s most outrageously strong eighties symphonia made as sweet as marrons glaces with all of the oxygen sucked out for good measure. Mahora, in its dry viscosity,  was a perfume that practically made me panic.

 

 

 

Nevertheless, at the same time I clearly remember us all having a ball when the perfume had a misguidedly enormous launch in Japan – the very country such a perfume was the least likely to succeed : NO ONE wears perfumes like this here (the unfortunately chosen name of the fragrance already had something puttanesca about it in English; in Japanese, a ‘mayora’ is a ‘mayonnaise whore’: someone who spreads or squeezes it onto everything, even rice ( I am a semi mayora I think myself)…….and then of course you have the SMELL, which we were spraying on ourselves quite decidedly – at one department store or other because I am always drawn to tropicalia even if the perfume feels like a display of tropical flowers and fruit locked away in a dark mahogany cabinet ; I also sprayed my just bought limited edition art cover  CD of Madonna’s Music CD with the parfum – so CONDENSED it is almost miraculous it still smells o Mahora to this day. We were on the train in Tokyo around rush hour though, and the effect was something like a chemical warfare attack with people instinctively covering their faces in biohazardous preparation: yes we had of course overdone it because the three of us had just been in a silly mood and we were enjoying the smell but even then at that time of its release I knew that this perfume would not be a commercial success. Voluptuously forced, it faded from sight, turned into ‘Mayotte’ for a while in one of the Guerlain exclusive collections, but I found it attenuated; boring somehow……….,if you are going to be Mahora : you might as well be Mahora.

 

 

Which smelled divine – as fully expected – on Denise, whose skin makes her smell like a queen. I remember us all lounging about together at our house in Kamakura eating the chocolates, drinking the champagne and luxuriating in the Mahora : it is now, two decades later, a time and a perfume I remember with great fondness :the bottle you see pictured now brings all of this back with great clarity. Serendipitously, we will all be meeting again in the summer, finally : she and her partner are coming back for the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics; still smelling lovely I imagine, and where we will continue from where we last left off as though the passing of time were irrelevant .

 

 

 

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THE BLACK NARCISSUS IS MARTIN

 

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A FILM BY MICHAEL JUDD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MUSIC BY SOFT CELL

(Marc Almond / David Ball, 1983)

 

 

 

 

 

 

STARRING:

 

 

 

ME (neil, martin, burning bush)

D

LAURIE

MICHAEL

 

 

 

 

 

For all the gay kids and anyone else who suffered the torments : : :  :: :: may they not any more in these fascist times: :: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : an exorcism of ghosts

 

 

 

 

 

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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